By Rob Leibowitz
The Twins' rotation carousel has already begun. Hop on board!
Scott Baker is out for the season, and Francisco Liriano is still having difficulty find the strike zone. Strike-throwing, inning-eater Nick Blackburn is in the middle of the rotation rather than teetering on demotion, leaving Carl Pavano as the "ace" when his skills and stuff suggest third or fourth starter. Originally, rookie Liam Hendriks made the team for a cup of coffee while the team awaited Jason Marquis. Instead, the Aussie is in for the long-haul and while the righty has perhaps the most upside of anyone in the rotation (Liriano aside), he remains a pitch to contact pitcher quite who is likely to some lumps over his rookie season. Meanwhile, Anthony
Swarzak has been deployed as a band-aid while the team awaits the arrival of Marquis (less healthy version of Pavano) on Wednesday.
What does this all mean? It means we are going to see a lot more changes to the Twins' rotation as the season goes along, so it is time to take a look at the in-house options.
Has upside but is struggling
Marquis, as noted, is schedule to make his season debut Wednesday replacing Swarzak. The 33-year-old has not pitched more than 131 innings since 2009 and, when healthy, is the definition of mediocre with sub-5.0 strikeout rates and average, but non-precession control (career 3.5 BB/9). In other words, it is a fair bet the right-hander gets lit up in his first extended exposure to AL hitting. So while a desperate league member wills FAAB him, I am already looking onto the next warm body.
Currently on the roster we already have Brian Duensing and Matt Maloney. Duensing was a member of the 2011 rotation. The lefty actually produced superior peripheral numbers to many current members of the rotation, but suffered from a .330 batting average on balls in play and a low left-on-base rate and a terrible May and August were his undoing in terms of overall ERA. The 29-year-old is probably the best option to insert into the rotation, but seems to be far down on the list at the moment. Maloney, 28, is more of a quadruple-A pitcher who has shown excellent control and solid strikeout skills in the minors that make him noteworthy. The lefty, however, is a fly-ball pitcher and that combined with average to fringy stuff could spell trouble.
Moving off the MLB roster, we head to Triple-A Rochester where we find Binghamton alum Scott Diamond. Our mutual alma mater alone might be enough to dissuade, but Diamond does have some skills. The lefty gets groundballs and has a reasonable history of throwing strikes. Ability to translate strikeout skills to the Majors is the question here. Former Cardinals farmhand P.J. Walters is another option. The 27-year-old is not on the 40-man roster and was part of the Colby Rasmus deal, but was let go by Toronto as a minor league free agent. The righty is starting for Rochester, but may be best suited to a relief role where at 6-foot-4 might be able to better harness his fastball and take advantage of his best pitch,
his changeup, to a greater degree. The Twins are also utilizing former Rockies' prospect Samuel Deduno as a starter. The undrafted free agent was used mostly as a reliever last year and is probably best suited for that role as a pitcher with a good fastball/curveball combo and inconsistent control.
Finally, it brings us to Daryl Thompson. Like Maloney, he was a long-time Reds' farmhand and signed as a minor league free agent. The 26-year-old has had some shoulder problems over his career and has long thought of as a back end-of-the-rotation type armed with a pretty good fastball/curve combo, but fringy slider and change. What he does best is command his pitches and throws strikes. If the former eighth-round pick can stay healthy, he might see some Major League time in 2012.
So, yes, there is not much to see here. Most of the players discussed will not require or warrant an aggressive FAAB bid should they indeed get the call, but there are least some journeymen with skills who might be worth a flier in AL-only formats. If you are looking for mixed-league options, look elsewhere.
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